Last week, NPR did a piece on Morning Edition about the intersection of sustainability and preservation. The piece profiled Paul Song, who, after demolishing his home, is now building a $1 million LEED-Platinum house which will be the first “100% energy-independent” home in Santa Monica, CA. The preservation view was thoughtfully articulated by Linda Dishman, Director of the Los Angeles Conservancy. Linda pointed out that keeping existing homes often has environmental value and that the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards don’t do a particularly good job of recognizing the value of building reuse.
This piece was a great way to get a large audience’s attention on the sustainability/preservation nexus, and I’d never refuse the opportunity to catch the ear of all those people out there as they’re drinking their morning coffee. But unfortunately the reporter left listeners with a couple of mistaken impressions, including that LEED and historic buildings are incompatible. Visitors to this blog will know this is far from true (see our very own Robert H. Smith Visitors Education Center at President Lincoln's Cottage – which is LEED-Gold -- for proof. The project was even named the 2009 “Project of the Year” in the New Construction/Major Renovation category by the U.S. Green Building Council’s National Capitol Region chapter.)
There’s a big difference between saying “we think more points should be awarded for building reuse” and saying “LEED doesn’t work for historic buildings.” Unfortunately, the reporter didn’t pick up on this distinction, and listeners are given the impression that green building and preservation just don’t mix. Nothing could be further from the truth, actually.
Ralph DiNola, a well known expert on preservation and sustainability, has written an excellent blog post in response to NPR’s piece and digs a little deeper into the relationship between LEED and preservation. Have a look!
Now if only we could get Ralph to go work for NPR...
Patrice Frey is the director of sustainability research for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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